College comments on Public Health Scotland’s annual delayed discharge report

The Royal College of Physicians of Edinburgh (“the College”) has commented on today’s new annual report from Public Health Scotland on delayed discharge levels in Scotland. The report reveals that in the financial year ending 31 March 2024, there were 666,190 days spent in hospital by people whose discharge was delayed. This is the highest level recorded since the data was collected in this format and represents an average 1,820 daily hospital beds used by people delayed in their discharge.

Speaking today Professor Andrew Elder, President of the Royal College of Physicians of Edinburgh, said:

The findings in this report are deeply concerning and must act as an urgent wake up call for the Scottish Government to redouble its efforts to support patients who are fit to do so to return home after hospitalisation, or into a care setting, as quickly as possible.

Delays in discharge are detrimental to the welfare of patients and their families. In addition, and as we have argued consistently, patient flow within our hospitals is being severely impacted with high levels of discharge delays, meaning doctors are struggling to move patients from A&E to in-patient acute wards.

We understand the focus on patients arriving at A&E departments - the hospital ‘front door’ - but we also need to pay much more attention to getting patients who are medically fit into community care settings.

To tackle these high levels of delayed discharge, we need to invest in the entire care sector and social care workforce more than has been the case, attract more people to work in social care, and provide better support for the many family and friends who act as informal carers in the community. We have called for the UK Government to reverse policies which deter overseas care workers from coming to the UK.

Efforts to integrate health and social care have not produced improvements, and the planned national care service is unlikely to deliver the level of change required. We cannot continue to talk about “health care” and “social care” as if they are entirely different entities. Each is closely dependent on the other – and until their funding is much more closely linked we will continue to experience these problems.

 We ask again that the proposed national conversation on the future of the NHS in Scotland takes the funding, integration and provision social care into account.